The U.S. Department of Justice will continue to help the St. Anthony Police Department define and refine how it communicates with the public, hires and trains its officers, disseminates data, and polices the community.
The initial two-year voluntary audit, prompted by the 2016 fatal shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights by a St. Anthony officer, was launched in January 2017. Last September, its status became unclear when the Justice Department announced that it was making “significant changes” to its Community Oriented Policing Services program to more closely align it with Trump administration goals.
Although the DOJ issued goals and objectives for the program in March 2017, it never followed through with recommendations on ways to improve the police force.
DOJ consultants and experts now will offer technical assistance over an eight-month period ending in August, St. Anthony residents learned Thursday at a community meeting at City Hall.
Despite the shortened timeline and reduced agenda, Police Chief Jon Mangseth said he’s made promises and won’t renege on them.
“This is a new era for our police department and one we are greatly excited for,” the chief said. “We are committed to the goals … to being transparent with activities and plans as we move forward.”
He urged people to monitor the Police Department’s website and participate in meetings. “We need input,” he said.
First among the priorities for federal assistance is the department’s Principles and Practice Manual, which Mangseth called “the heart and soul of our work.”
“Its main purpose is to embed 21st-century policing principles into our policies,” he said.
Second will be a data-driven strategic plan focused on how to initiate and conduct vehicle and pedestrian stops. Mangseth said the department has already begun emphasizing traffic safety over traffic enforcement.
The feds also will help St. Anthony develop a community engagement strategic plan. That has always been a goal, Mangseth said, “but we can always do better.” As part of that, officers will visit police departments in two cities to learn about those cities handle de-escalation techniques and community engagement.
Lastly, the DOJ will help with use-of-force policies and encounters with the mentally ill.
Mangseth said that since January 2017, all police and city personnel have undergone intensive training on implicit bias, fair and impartial policing, procedural justice and other skills. He said he learned from the training how to recognize his own implicit biases.
They will no longer take part in a training called “Bulletproof Warrior,” a program that officer Jeronimo Yanez, who killed Castile, took shortly before the shooting.
Also, body cameras will be fully implemented by this summer, and squad car cameras will be upgraded.
The department, which now has 20 sworn officers, no longer patrols Falcon Heights.